10 simple steps to help Dolphins this offseason

Credit: AL DIAZ

Credit: AL DIAZ

Well, it’s that time of year when, once again, I fearlessly state what the Dolphins do to win the offseason.

There’s just one problem: I don’t feel so fearless with answers this February.

I don’t even know the question this time. Is this regime trying to save jobs, and make the playoffs, which is possible considering some of the unimpressive teams that did again this past season?

Or are they trying to build a sustained contender? That brings in another set of parameters. Like making longer-range personnel decisions and possibly drafting a quarterback, which I’m not pushing. They’d probably have to trade up. They’d effectively burn two drafts to do so. This mediocre and aging roster needs that youth.

There’s just no easy way to put Humpty Dumpty back together again for next year. The offensive line has questions at every position. Their best players are either over 30 next season (Ndamukong Suh and Reshad Jones) or unsigned (Jarvis Landry).

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill comes off knee surgery and, at 30, has shown goodness but needs that elusive step to greatness. The defensive coordinator mentioned a need to get someone to cover tight ends, meaning the two safeties (Jones, T.J. McDonald) and linebacker (Kiko Alonso) they’ve invested heavily in can’t do it.

Add it all up and the Dolphins are a collection of players more than a well-constructed team. That’s on Mike Tannenbaum’s front office. So how to solve things this off-season?

You can’t. You’re not catching New England in the AFC East as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick stay. You’re trying to catch Buffalo as one of the fortunate teams that slip in the playoffs. So know the mission, cross your fingers and …

 1. Make some obvious salary cuts. Julius Thomas ($6.5 million), Lawrence Timmons ($5.5 million), Ja'Wuan James ($9.3 million) give you some breathing room from the salary cap. Not much. You'd have about $31 million to spend now. Center Mike Pouncey is another question. He can't practice much. He celebrated playing 16 healthy games. With a decent roster, you'd save $8 million by cutting him. With a better roster, I'd cut him. But there are enough issues and not much money without adding another need. So Pouncey returns — at a pay cut in a smart world.

 2. Pay Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins have spent the last two years trying not to be in this situation. They talked with teams of trading Landry last spring and again before the trade deadline. Why? He's very good. He's one of the team's best players. But you're paying top money for a slot receiver who averaged 8.8 yards a catch. Smartly assembled teams don't do that. Then again, better teams don't desperately need a receiver like the Dolphins do Landry. Transition-tag him to set the market value and then pay him. Cost: About $14 million.

 3. Bring back this offensive line. Again, not a perfect world. But if you look over the final six games, the line was fine with Sam Young at right tackle and Ted Larsen at left guard. There's similar a fear to the Heat going 30-11 to finish last season and distorting optimism. But what are the options? James would be the best tackle out there and get $10 million a year. Instead, sign or draft a guard, center and tackle. Maybe that tackle is your first pick. But …

 4. Draft linebacker Roquan Smith with the 11th overall pick. He's brings speed, youth and athleticism to the 28th-rated defense that needs all of that. He also fills the glaring need of someone to cover tight ends. Yes, that means you're passing on the top quarterbacks, which means …

 5. Draft a quarterback in the second or third round. Luke Falk? Kyle Lauletta? Mason Rudolph? Might one of them fall to you in the second round? This is your back-up this season. This is the hope for tomorrow. Make it work.

 6. Realize there's no one to spend big money on in free agency. This class is meh. That's fine, too. The Dolphins don't have much money to spend. So don't re-work a lot of contracts and push problems like Suh's big money until tomorrow. Take the pain now. It's a good off-season the constant offseason need to make a free-agent splash.

 7. Show you've learned a lesson, Exhibit A: Don't sign another injured, aging tight end. The Dolphins poured nearly as much into Jordan Cameron and Thomas over the past three years as the Patriots did for Rob Gronkowski. Don't look at Jimmy Graham or Tyler Eifert. Bring back Anthony Fasano, develop A.J. Derby and the mysteriously underused MarQueis Gray and see if Wisconsin's Troy Fumagalli is around in, say, the third round.

 8. Re-sign defensive end William Hayes. A small move. A non-news move. And another risky one considering he's 34 and suffered a season-ending injury last year. But the defense was better when he was in it. Again, the little money you have is chipping down.

 9. Show you've learned a lesson, Exhibit B: Don't do any deals with Philadelphia. They've made you look silly the last two years.

 10. Did I mention cross your fingers?